Cindy Klassen & men’s pursuit break world record, for gold at long track speed skating World Cup

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg and the men’s pursuit smashed world records in an incredible day for Canada on home ice at the opening long track speed skating World Cup competition.

In the women’s 3,000, Klassen blazed around the Olympic Oval ice in three minutes and 55.75 seconds to demolish the previous mark of 3:57.70 set by Claudia Pechstein of Germany in 2002 at Salt Lake City. Klassen was paired with Pechstein who took the silver in 3:57.99 while her compatriot Anni Friesinger was third in 3:58.52.

“It always helps to go up against Claudia,” said Klassen, who also lowered the 1,500 mark two weeks ago at team trials, a record which was broken last week by Friesinger at a meet in Calgary. “You know you have to be on your game to beat her. Basically I had some good speed at the beginning and held on. I got that lead early and never saw her afterwards. I didn’t feel nervous before the race. I’m in the mindset that I’m going to go out there and enjoy it.”

Klassen says she can benefit from her early season success.

“I think this strong start is really good, it gives me confidence. But this isn’t the Olympics and it could be anybody’s day at the Olympics.”

Kristina Groves of Ottawa was fourth in 3:59.48 and Clara Hughes of Winnipeg seventh in 4:03.97.

In the men’s 3,200 metre pursuit, a new Olympic event for Turin, Canada with Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., and Arne Dankers of Calgary took the gold in 3:39.69 for their first ever World Cup victory in the event and an amazing world record. The previous mark was 3:46.44 set by the Netherlands last year

The Netherlands took the next two spots in 3:41.63 and 3:41.64. In fact the top-nine all went under the old world record. The victory also assured Canada an Olympic berth in the event. Canada 2 was ninth in 3:45.09 with Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., Jay Morrison of Fort St. John and Justin Warsylewicz of Regina.

“We’re super excited about the win and a bit surprised as well,” said Dankers. “The ice here is very fast and the other countries may not be use to that kind of speed this early on. So that worked to our advantage. We went out very quick and that was a good strategy.”

In the men’s 1,500 metres, Shani Davis of the U.S., just missed breaking his world mark clocking 1:43.52 for the gold. Compatriot Chad Hedrick was second in 1:44.24 and Aleksandr Kibalko of Russia third in 1:45.26.

Canadians grabbed the top-four spots in the B group race. Denny Morrison broke his Canadian record of 1:45.15 set two weeks ago at team trials clocking 1:44.10, the second best time of the day. Elm followed in 1:46.45, Parker was third in 1:46.54 and Jay Morrison fourth in 1:46.58. All four should advance to the main group next week at Salt Lake City.

“I kept the little slips and bobbles to a minimum this time,” said Denny Morrison, 20, a world junior champion last year. “I started fast and finished fast and I hope I can keep those good times coming. My biggest improvement this year is in the straightaways. I’m staying relaxed, not rushing my stride and trying to be as efficient as possible.

“I’m already pretty excited about next week’s World Cup.”

Francois-Olivier Roberge of Ste-Foy, Que., was seventh.